A Closer Look At The Fascinating And Funky Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Re-Edition
Left-handed diving watch? Check! A faithful and fun tribute to the original? Absolutely.
You probably haven’t heard of Jacques Bianchi. To be honest, I hadn’t either until his intrepid PR team reached out with the news of the Marseilles-based watchmaker’s latest release. But from the moment I opened the email, I was captivated.
“Why,” you ask?
First, I’m left-handed, and it’s nearly impossible to find a left-handed diver for under $5,000. And second, the dial of the new JB 200 Re-Edition has a big friggin’ frogman on it!
About Jacques Bianchi
French watchmaker Jacques Bianchi has been practicing his craft out of his workshop in Marseilles, France, for over a half-century. Having personally repaired the COMEX watches of French divers like Jacques Cousteau, Mr. Bianchi is a local legend in the south of France. Now shy of 80 years old, Bianchi is relishing his time in the spotlight due to the introduction of faithful re-editions of his classic diving watches.
To this day, Bianchi calls his humble workshop in Marseilles’ Vieux-Port district home. The ephemera contained within this watch and clock repair shop could fill a small museum. As Bianchi notes, his workshop is a “divine mess.”
Bianchi created his brand in the early 1980s. The goal was to produce robust and durable dive watches for the French Navy. The fruit of this labor was the JB200 Skin Diver. “JB” for Jacques Bianchi and “200” for its 200 meters of water resistance. To keep an accessible price for procurement managers, Bianchi equipped his first diver with a French-made quartz movement.
Jacques Bianchi and his eponymous brand’s production of the JB 200 earned him a place in the Official Register of the French Navy Watchmakers. While his production for the French Navy was in the few dozens, records show that his watches ended up on the wrists of Helicopter Divers at the Aérodrome de Fréjus-Saint Raphaël (a naval airfield on the Côte d’Azur) and divers on board the minehunter vessel “Persée.”
Enter: The Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Re-Edition
In recent years, Bianchi had been studying the micro-brand landscape. That led the always curious octogenarian to Kickstarter. Like many modest watchmakers, the dream of producing a line of watches can sometimes seem impossible. But Bianchi was unmoved and put his efforts into making a faithful re-issue of the JB 200 for the mass market.
The result? The new Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Re-Edition, a 42mm steel skin diver with a “destro” crown placed at 9 o’clock on the left side of the case. Like the original, the re-issue is water-resistant to 200 meters and features Super-LumiNova in the hands, indices, and inside the mirror-polished bezel. And to complete the execution, its rich black dial features a bright white frogmen diver motif.
The new JB 200 Re-Edition features “Jacques Bianchi Marseille” at 6 o’clock on the dial, in tribute to its birthplace, and is powered by the Seiko NH35, which beats at 21,600 bph and features a 41-hour power reserve.
In the Metal
Thanks to Jacques Bianchi, we were able to get a pre-production sample of the JB 200 Re-Edition, and I can confirm that the piece is just as impressive in the metal as it is in the pictures you see.
The watch conforms nicely to the wrist with a thickness of 13.3mm and looks great with its polished and brushed lugs. Its Tropic rubber strap is soft and features enough sizing holes to fit over a bare wrist or a diving suit.
For a watch at this price point, it’s evident that a lot of care and attention went into the production of the JB 200. But then again, one would expect nothing less from Mr. Bianchi, who has been mastering his craft for over a half-century.
Pricing & Availability
As of this writing, the Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Re-Edition has garnered nearly 1,000 backers on Kickstarter and has raised close to $800,000, which is well over the brand’s original $180,000 goal (a goal they reached in just 9 minutes after launch, by the way).
(Photography by Kat Shoulders)